Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bama 2014

It's almost here. Get ready people. The road to 16 commences Saturday afternoon...

Roll Tide!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My piece of the pie

Sometimes it's just so overwhelming.

As I read this week about the persecution going on in Iraq, it makes me want to do something. I want to make it stop. All by myself.

And then I look around at all the needs in the world, and how desperately the earth's 7 billion people need hope. Hope that is found in the gospel of Jesus the Messiah.

Seven. Billion. People.

In this age of 24 hour news, social media, and rapid communication, it's hard to miss how great the need is. Children all over the world in need of basic necessities like food and clothing. War breaking out in Ukraine, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan with millions of civilians in the crossfire. Disease that's killing thousands and threatening to break out to kill millions. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis.

There are so many people hurting...and I sometimes feel so helpless.

So this morning when our teaching pastor compared me to a piece of pie, it was a perspective I needed.

A piece of pie? Yes. The encouragement I got from him was this: God has given me a role in redeeming his creation. But it's just a small part. When I feel like I've got to solve it all, I've got to remember that I'm just one piece of the pie, and I need to surround myself with people who have the other pieces. This is a group project.

Group project. I got a picture of this Thursday when I was helping judge an MBA contest at the University of Alabama. In the morning session, I saw 12 students making speeches, showing their talents for analyzing business problems. They were impressive. But the afternoon session was so much more impressive. The students were placed in groups of four and given a problem to solve, a company that needed to be revitalized. The group dynamic was so much more powerful, and the solutions they came up with were cool.

So why should I be discouraged? God isn't asking me to solve the world's problems all by myself. He has been working to redeem the world with a plan that has been growing for over 4,000 years, starting with Abraham, culminating in the work of Jesus during his time on earth, and continuing in the hands of his people, the church. I am a small part of that plan, a small piece of the pie.

Small, yes. But definitely a piece.

So what should I do? I believe God asks me to be content in the role he has given me, and go about it with determination and much prayer. I don't need to be wishing I could be somewhere else doing something else. If I do, I will pine away my life and miss the chance to do his kingdom work right where he has me. There is so much to be done!

So, instead of focusing on what I can't do, I will focus on what I can:

  • Go to work each and look for ways to show God's love to those at my company. I can do quality work that glorifies the Creator of work, demonstrate servant leadership to my team, and love those around me even when we don't agree on things.
  • Love my family with all my heart, letting them see the light of Jesus by considering their needs above my own.
  • Love my friends - fellow believers - by spending time with them and building community that reflects the prayer of Jesus in John 17.
  • Love strangers, and even those who oppose me. Show them extraordinary kindness. Who does this?? Well, nobody wants to. And so when I do, people can see that the gospel does make a difference in how we live.
  • Find a pocket of need and pour my life into others. This is where I have to avoid getting overwhelmed - I can't reach out to and/or visit every widow and orphan in the world or help lift up all the oppressed. But that's no excuse not to reach out to any. For me, at this point in my life, it's the children of Korah in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as well as keeping my eye out for local opportunities.
  • Pray, pray, pray. This is how we can be involved where we can't reach. We have a big God.
  • Share the resources that God has entrusted to me. He has done so not for my pleasure, but for his glory.
Tackling this list is  quite a challenge. But with God's help, it's something I can do. 

So thanks, Patrick, for reminding me. Instead of being frustrated about the things I want to do for God but can't, I need to do well those things God has placed right in front of me. 

Time to get to it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Time out

Sometimes you just have to call a time out.

Today, August 15, is a regular time out for me. Today I step away from work and from my everyday personal life. I will spend some time alone, and it will help me refocus on what's really important.

As many of you know, today is my late sister Kim's birthday, and 18 years ago today there was a terrible accident that claimed her life. Because of that, I have chosen today as a personal memorial day for all those I love who have gone ahead of me. But you know what? I have written about these things before, and I think the best way to share my heart is to point to these previous posts. So here are links:

Today I remember (a tribute to my sister)

An annual reminder (an explanation of why I take this day)

No more night (A reminder that death is not the end)

If you have the time, I ask humbly that you click on these links and do a little reading. If you do, I pray that you catch a spirit not of sadness, but of rejoicing in the memory of great lives and the hope that we have in Jesus.

Remember those that you miss. Remember the love. Remember the joy. And thank God for their time with you.

God bless.....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A terrible thing

Death is a terrible thing. It is the enemy. There is no silver lining.

In this scene from the movie Dead Poets Society (1989), a young student has just committed suicide. Just how awful is death? Well, here.....

Waste. Tragedy. The end result of living without hope. It was true for Neil, and today we saw it as the the life of Robin Williams ended.

There is a deep, sad, irony in watching this movie now. We see Williams' character trying to come to grips with the path that led his student to despair. And from now on as we watch this, we will not be able to escape the awful fact that this was a path he would one day travel himself. And we are all the worse for it.

Yes...death is a terrible thing. It is the enemy. There is no silver lining.

What's that you say? The silver lining is that it is a bridge to the afterlife, where everyone will be happy and where our dreams will come through?

I don't think so. I believe the Scriptural message that death is the end result of our rebellion and where the path of human self-reliance ultimately leads. It is a horrible enemy, one that made Jesus weep with sorrow and anger at the grave of his friend Lazarus.

But it is an enemy that he defeated. When the Messiah Jesus rose from the grave, he took away its awfulness. He robbed it of its debilitating power. And he created the hope that for his followers it would not have the final say.

Death has robbed us of a great talent today. We will miss his humor and ability to make a story come alive; those who knew him well will miss so much more.

Death, you stink.

But you. Are. Done.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The pressure's on

Yesterday I read a study from the Barna Group that was very encouraging. For those of you who don't know, this research organization specializes in doing studies on trends among people of faith, with a special emphasis on the millennial generation. In this study, the main focus was the way technology was changing the way Millennials interact with their faith. You can read the whole study here. I encourage you too.

There's a lot in the study about how this generation is using the internet and their mobile devices to read Scripture, as opposed to just using books or the Bible in book form. That didn't surprise me - I've done a lot of that myself. But the cool part was the way they are using technology tools to check up on their preachers. Here's an excerpt:
Now with the ability to fact-check at their fingertips, Millennials aren’t taking the teaching of faith leaders for granted. In fact, 14% of Millennials say they search to verify something a faith leader has said. A striking 38% of practicing Christian Millennials say the same.
Wow! Preachers can't just assume their congregations are sitting there passively, believing everything they say.

And that's a good thing.

It reminds of the Christians at Berea, as told in Acts 17. When Paul and Silas were there preaching, we are told that the people of Berea "received the word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11, NASB, emphasis mine)

There is way too much blind acceptance of stuff that comes out of the pulpit. I won't even go into examples of false teaching, but it is all over the place. But it's not just in the 21st century - it was true in the first century as well. John wrote about testing doctrine (1 John 4:1), Paul about avoiding false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3-4). And Jesus said it was coming, and would mislead many (Matthew 24:11).

So how do we avoid getting caught in the trap? By doing what they did in Berea. And this is exactly what we see a large number of Millennials doing!

When I see that they are using technology for real time fact-checking, that is good news. It is my prayer that they are "fact-checking" what preachers are saying about the Bible, to make sure it's true. "Examining the Scriptures daily..." - no, not just daily but immediately! - ..."to see whether these things are so."

Technology can be a trap. But it can be a blessing. Watch out preachers, the pressure's on. May God use this trend to seed out false teachers and point a generation toward the awesome truth of the gospel.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Doesn't this just make you feel good?

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof,
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth,
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do.
Before starting, let me say: I love the song. Catchy tune. Feel-good message. And it does have some elements of godly joy in it, especially the idea of not letting anything bring you down.

But it does have a problem right smack in the middle of it. How so?

Happiness is not the truth.

You see, in our society we have made being happy the ultimate goal. Whatever makes you happy, that's what you should do. We use it to justify all sorts of things:

  • We pursue pleasure with every spare moment, instead of taking time to serve others. Because, well, that makes me happy.
  • We drown out the voices of Scripture and our consciences when it comes to certain behaviors, because if it doesn't make us happy it can't possibly come from a loving God, right?
  • We think that being happy is the reason to get married. So when we are no longer happy, well...that's what divorce is for.
  • And it's not just marriage. We quit when things get tough in all sorts of areas. Whether it's at work, church, or just a friendship that's hit some rocky times. "This doesn't make me happy anymore. I'm done."
  • We blame God when we encounter death, sickness, or financial troubles. "This doesn't make me happy, God. You must not love me. Do you even exist?'
Yep, we've bought the lie..."happiness is the truth."

If life and Scripture combine to tell us anything, it's that God wants to shape us back into his image through our time here on earth. Paul consistently wrote about how suffering was part of God's plan to shape us into the image of his Son, using his own suffering as an example. So did Peter. Jesus told us to take up our cross (an instrument of death!) and follow him.  He also told the religious leaders that a man who was born blind did nothing to deserve it and said that the Father causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall equally on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). 

There is nothing in the words of Jesus or his followers indicating that being happy was the goal of life.

And then there's Job. In the first two chapters of this amazing book, we learn that Job is going to suffer and suffer a lot. And then it happens, and we are told that none of it is because of his sin. How happy do you think Job was? Exactly. And yet he was right smack in the center of God's will, as the Lord used his circumstances to teach him and make him more of an image-bearer.

But really, go ahead...clap along. I do. Through faith in the Messiah Jesus, I am determined not to let life bring me down.

But when I'm not happy, when life is pressing down on me, I've got something better than happiness to carry me through.

Faith. Hope. Love. These are the truth.